Transformers Prime: The Game – Wii U
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Now Production
Release Date: Nov 18, 2012
Genre: Action
Reviewed by Mark Smith

Review Score: 4 of 5

When you think of Nintendo exclusives Mario and Zelda come to mind, but who would have ever thought that Transformers would ever make that list? Well, if you want to play the best, the most faithfully reproduced, and quite frankly, the only version of Transformers Prime: The Game, then you are going to need a Wii, DS, 3DS, or in the case of this review, a fancy new Wii U console.

Join Optimus, Megatron, and the rest of your favorite fighting robots in this surprisingly authentic video game spinoff based on the new cartoon series. Sadly, my basic cable package doesn’t offer the channel that airs this series, so I had to call over some staff members who had seen the show to verify its authenticity, and after an hour or more of gaming and discussion it was agreed that this was pretty much “the show” only in interactive form. This means you won’t be getting any fresh story content, but that may be a blessing in disguise. No longer saddled with working on a narrative, the designers were able to focus all their attention on actual gameplay.

The story mode is divided into five parts, each with a key Autobot hero you will be taking into the fray. You start with Optimus Prime who eases you into the mechanics in the opening tutorial stage, and just when you think you’ve mastered all he has to offer the second mission changes everything with the introduction of Arcee and some fast and frantic vehicle form chases that make effective use of the gyro abilities of the Wii U GamePad. Throughout the game there is a nice mix of combat, chases, timed sequences, and even a bit of non-linear exploration when you finally take control of Bumblebee in one of the later missions, but at its heart, Transformers Prime: The Game is a brawler.

The combat is a mix of seamlessly flowing close-range melee or ranged lock-on attacks that you can mix and match with intuitive controls and slick morphing animations offering unmatched freedom and creativity in dispatching each and every enemy in the game, making this the most non-repetitive brawler I’ve played in quite some time. There is a blocking/parry system in place but only if you activate your shield before the first attack otherwise combos are unbreakable. You’ll also want to gather the Energon shards left behind from destroyed objects to not only power your shield but also activate a brief period of high-performance combat if you can max out the Energon meter. Even your vehicle mode factors into the combat, both in actual ramming attacks and in nimble acrobatic moves once you master the transformation timing.

Variety is the spice of Transformers Prime: The Game, with each new level offering a new hero, new gameplay mechanics, and new enemies, so you never quite know what to expect unless you are replaying the mission over a second, third or tenth time, and yes; you will replay these missions a lot, or at least sit back and watch someone else play them, since watching this game is not unlike watching an episode of the show, and the ranking system encourages replaying for high scores.

Sadly, instead of being created for the Wii U and filtered down to the lesser systems, it seems owners of Nintendo’s first HD console are only getting an upscaled version of the Wii/3DS assets. It’s still the best looking version of the game out there, but it could have been so much more as basic modeling and simple textures betray the game’s last-gen origins. Even the Wiimote and Nunchuck controls from the Wii are fully carried over; although you do have the option to use the new GamePad or even the Pro Controller, both of which eliminate those wrist-spasm waggle attacks. The GamePad provides minimal use of the additional screen to show all the stats that are relevant to your final score and rank for each level, and if you get bounced from the TV by another family member you can always play the entire game on the secondary screen. You can also use the Gamepad’s motion controls to steer your vehicles in the various driving parts of the game – much better than fumbling with the Wiimote and Nunchuck – but still far from the precision of the analog stick on the Pro Controller.

There is a modest attempt at adding some offline multiplayer with 11 playable characters from both sides of the conflict going into modes like Brawl, Emblem Match, and Battle for Energon. Matches can have up to four robots but only two human players with the CPU rounding out the roster, and there are numerous options you can tweak prior to the match to mix things up a bit. There is a bit of imbalance in the characters and their various abiities, which can often lead to some awkward matches.

Transformers Prime: The Game was a fun, albeit short ride. With only five main characters and story chapters you can finish the game in just as many hours, but the sheer scope of original combat, non-linear gameplay, explorations and an addictive ranking system will keep you coming back for more action, and best of all you don’t have to be a fan of the new animated series. In fact, it might help if you come into this game like I did…without having ever seen an episode. That way, the story is somewhat fresh, but even fans of the show are going to love the inclusion of all the original sounds, music, and voice acting, not to mention actually taking control over their favorite Autobots in what is easily the best Transformers game to ever come to a Nintendo system.